What is it?
The XKR 75 may be saddled with a somewhat ham-fisted name – one that reflects how many such cars Jaguar will produce over the next year or so – but it’s also the fastest production Jaguar in history, assuming you don’t count the largely hand-assembled XJ220 of yesteryear. In many ways, it’s the car Jaguar has always wanted to build but has never quite had the courage to do so.
Having said that, on paper the 75 doesn’t appear to be that much more thrusting than the regular XKR, despite costing a full £10k more than the regular model at £85,500. The key mechanical differences involve the engine, suspension and exhaust.
Officially the 75 has another 20bhp and 26lb ft more than the XKR on which it is based. The suspension is also lower and stiffer while the exhaust has been replaced with a sports item that is both louder and more free-flowing – all of which sounds fairly predictable on the surface, and perhaps not entirely deserving of another 10 grand.
What’s it like?
In reality, the 75 feels like an entirely different animal compared with the regular XKR. Quite apart from the styling upgrades – which are subtle in isolation but make it look far more purposeful when viewed collectively – the claimed engine outputs are, shall we say, on the gentle side of conservative according to insiders.
Rumour has it that the actual outputs are nearer 540bhp and 515lb ft, hence the reason the 0-60mph time has tumbled to 4.4sec while the 0-100mph sprint now takes just 8.9sec. And the chassis? “We went to town with it really” explains Jaguar’s engineering uber-lord, Mike Cross. “We were still keen to keep the car driveable; to maintain the Jaguar feel. But what we wanted to create was a car that you could drive to the Nurburgring in, set a decent lap time (as in sub eight minutes), and still drive home feeling totally comfortable with.”
Which is why, despite the springs being 28/32 per cent stiffer front and rear, and the ride height being 15/10mm lower front/rear, the 75 still feels instantly like a Jag during those crucial first few moments on the move. Although its exhaust delivers a rousing burst of revs when you fire it up, it settles quickly to a smooth, if fairly potent idle. It’s a mood that is reflected throughout the entire driving experience.
Is it disappointing to discover that there are precisely no changes to the cabin to distinguish it beyond a regular XKR inside? In an obvious sense, yes. Then again, there’s not a whole lot wrong with the XK’s interior, particularly if you throw every available option at it as standard as Jaguar has in this instance.
On the move, it’s hard to see how the XKR 75 could be significantly bettered as an ultra-rapid 2+2 GT car, even by rivals such as the Porsche 911 and Aston Martin V8 Vantage. But then the XKR 75 is a quite incredibly well rounded car dynamically, one with which the Aston will always struggle to compete.
Take the way it steers. As ever with Jaguars, the power assistance is quite strong, which means the amount of physical effort required to turn the wheel is unusually light. But once you get used to this and realise that there is feel there, that there is a subtle resistance present, the way in which you interact with the car becomes altogether more cerebral.
Eventually (quite quickly, in fact) you become aware that you can guide the nose towards and through corners with quite extraordinarily little movement on the wheel itself. You get to a point where it really does feel as if you are thinking the car through bends, rather than physically steering it – and when you reach that level, the relationship between car, road and driver becomes uniquely intuitive.
None of which would be possible were the rest of the suspension as beautifully well sorted as it is, of course. Just as in the regular XKR there is a “dynamic drive” button plus a sport function for the paddle shift gearbox, whereby you can alter the damper response, throttle mapping and even the gearchange characteristics. Except on the 75 the parameters have been changed subtly to suit the car’s more aggressive personality, so it feels sharper when you switch the systems on and, conversely, more relaxed somehow when you turn them off.
It’s not quite the full Jekyll and Hyde transformation but the difference in response to all the major controls bar the steering is marked. Again, this level of flexibility – the ability to swap so easily between cruiser and bruiser – distinguishes the Jag above and beyond the majority of its competition.
Should I buy one?
The XKR 75 makes its world debut at next weekend’s Festival of Speed at Goodwood, and Jaguar is hoping to find buyers in the process. You suspect it won’t have too much difficulty finding 75 people to sign on the dotted line – for this is an exceptionally strong car; one that’s as rapid as it is refined, looks good and is competitively priced beside key rivals, especially when you consider how well specified it is by comparison.
If you fancy one, I’d get your order in quick. The XKR 75 might not be available for very long.